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Pompeo to visit Sri Lanka and Maldives as China threat looms

FILE PHOTOT: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives for his meeting with Romania's Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu at the State Department in Washington, U.S., October 19, 2020. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas?

COLOMBO/MALE (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Sri Lanka and the Maldives this month, officials of both Indian Ocean nations said on Tuesday, as Washington seeks to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

Pompeo will hold two-way talks in Colombo on Oct. 28, a spokesman for Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said, but gave no details.

Two people familiar with arrangements for the trip said Pompeo was likely to stop in the Maldives’ capital of Male for several hours on the same day.

“Incoming visits of official foreign delegations will be announced once a visit is scheduled and confirmed,” the Maldives’ foreign ministry said in a statement.

China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, visited Colombo this month. In recent years, Beijing has increasingly provided financing and construction for critical infrastructure in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, alarming traditional regional power India.

Last week, an Indian government source said Pompeo was also set to visit New Delhi this month, along with Defense Secretary Mark Esper, for talks with Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

Reporting by Waruna Karunatilake in Colombo and Mohamed Junayd in Male; Writing by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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